My grandpa running the Duke City Marathon in 1985

My Te-eh running the Duke City Marathon in 1985

“Why do you run?”
Everyone has their own reasons.

I’ve been running since I was 8 or 9 years old. When I was a young child I grew up on the country side of Isleta Pueblo, which is about 20 minutes south of Albuquerque, and lived in a house with my grandparents, my young mom (Sue), and my aunt. My Te-eh (meaning grandfather in our native language) was an incredible runner, and his daily routine consisted of rising up early to feed the horses and cattle, going to work, returning home to feed the animals once again, and then going out for his regular run. He was my first running “coach”, taking me out a little bit at a time along the ditch banks and field areas surrounding our home before sending me on my way back to our house so he could continue on with his training. I was a total “Daddy’s girl” in this sense, and it was back then when I fell in love with

My grandpa and I at a half marathon in Jemez Pueblo (March 2017)

Te-eh and Alyssa at a half marathon in Jemez Pueblo (March 2017)

running. As a child I ran because I loved spending this time with my Te-eh, loved being able to make him proud, and genuinely loved how free running made me feel.

Fast forward to my teenage years, and the story changes a little bit. My mom had gotten her own house, so we had transitioned to living apart from my grandparents into a more urban and developed part of the pueblo. It was during this time that some demons began to come into play in our lives. My mom had put her love and trust in a man who seemed to reciprocate the same feelings for the two of us, but those feelings and actions from him were short lived. We went through years of abuse-physically, emotionally, and mentally. As a teenager, there was only two ways I knew how to cope with what was going on in my home without leaving my mom to deal with everything on her own. One, I got into drugs and alcohol about the time I was 13 years old. Weekends and often several weeknights I would sneak out of our home and party with so-called friends to try and escape or forget about the things going on in our lives. And despite being into the party scene to help cope with my demons, the second way I would escape the negativity was through exercise. My love for running was always with me, and there were times when I would literally flee our home and run through our neighborhood to a friend’s house, or wake up early on a weekend and run a route close to our home because I found that my anger was less intense after pounding out some miles spent alone.

(Left) Mom and me in 1994. (Right) Mom and me at college graduation in 2014.

(Left) Sue and Alyssa in 1994.
(Right) Sue & Alyssa at college graduation in 2014.

Looking back I realize a lot of what I was doing to myself, in response to the abuse, was harming, but it was the running that was helping to save me. I have always been a person of faith, and it was during those hard times that while running I would talk to God and ask for help to get my mom and I out of the circumstances we were going through. Even if I didn’t pray each time, I ran because it had a huge impact on easing my pain and also made me feel stronger.

Fast forward once again to my early 20’s and where I am now. Our lives changed dramatically when we were finally freed from the situation we had been in for years. I got my act together, decided to pursue a degree in physical education, and continued running. Again, running helped me deal with stress from school, work, and other normal stressors that every young adult faces. I also began to take my run training a bit more serious when I found myself entering in local

Alyssa & Sue

Alyssa & Sue

races and finishing fairly strong in these events. My mom and family loved watching me run, so they showed up to cheer and support to as many events as they could.

This past weekend (June 2017) I completed in my first ultra marathon, the Bryce Canyon 50k. Leading up to this race I have been battling a knee injury- which put me out for three weeks leading up to the event. In addition to this, I have never even run in a marathon (go big or go home right?) so the thought of dealing with pain going into my first ultra was quite the mental battle, but my heart was set on completing this event as best I could, even if it meant walking a majority of the course. My mom and family had their concerns, but they never once doubted my abilities to finish. As always, my mom was my biggest supporter- sending me encouraging messages throughout my time on the trail. As I ran through the course the day of the event, any tough moment or presence of the injury I went back to my faith, talking to God and focusing on the positive and beauty around me. A common thought was this, “God, I have been through a lot worse than this knee pain and distance. If you brought me

Alyssa and a first place finish Bryce Canyon 50K

Alyssa and a first place finish Bryce Canyon 50K

out of those things I know you can bring me through this.” I also thought about my mom constantly. Because despite those hardships, she came out a stronger person in every way possible. To this day she is one of the strongest humans I know, and without her I would not have the strength and faith I do now that helps get me through these endurance events.

I ran this first 50k for my mom. And I can proudly say I finished strong, making sure she was the first person I contacted when I was done.  She was anxiously waiting news of my finish so she could pass it on to the rest of our family. She is my greatest encourager, inspiration, and support in everything I do.

So why do I run? I run because it has made me strong. I run because it has helped me cope with life. I run because I love making my mom and family proud. I run because it has taken me to some of the most beautiful places my eyes have ever seen. And I run because I am able, and I hope that others find the same peace and strength it has given me too.

This One Medal story was submitted by Alyssa.  She is a member of the ABQ Sole Sisters and an ambassador for Race NM